Blue Waters and Red Ink

I got a bit of a shock this morning.  On the front page of the local newspaper (and the online version, too) was the story about IBM pulling out of the Blue Waters project with NCSA. (HPCwire covered it here.) The main reason for IBM's decision is reported to be due to the project no longer being cost-effective.

The building for the hardware has been completed (at least externally) for about a year and I'd been watching the building construction for almost 2 years before that. There's been a sign announcing the National Petascale Computing Facility for several months, too, and all the publicity that has been floating around that part of campus touted the Blue Waters machine. There was even a tour of the building at the end of last year's UPCRC UIUC Summer School on Multicore Programming. I declined to make room for more students and thought I'd get the chance this year when some hardware might have been installed.

As the reports indicate, even though IBM has pulled out, NCSA is still hoping to spend their grant money on a comparable machine to be installed by next year. They are even contemplating a name change since the "Blue" has been tied to IBM and many of their large computing platform projects (e.g., Deep Blue and Blue Gene). Even so, since we consider water to be blue, the name might still work.

And then I got to thinking, if Intel were able to sponsor a petaflop system with our processors, the name could still be used. Even though we might not be thought of as "big" blue, the Intel logo and badges and other corporate identifiers are more often blue in color. This might be the chance to bid a solution that incorporates the forthcoming MIC processors. Something for someone to think about.

UPDATE: The News-Gazette carried the story "Behind the parting of IBM and Blue Waters" on Sunday, 25 SEP.  For those interested, there are more details on why and how the Blue Waters project played out as it did.
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